Artem Okhrei, seo-specialist, web-developer

26.06.2018 at 12:25

5 Things You Should Check If Your Traffic Suddenly Drops

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Did your traffic suddenly start to drop for no apparent reason? Let's take a look at the most common problems that can lead to this and the ways to return traffic to the site.

No one is immune to the traffic drops, and its causes are easy to overlook. However, in order to avoid unnecessary anxiety, first collect the evidence: look closely at your Google Analytics statistics for a sufficiently long period of time to make sure that the traffic drop really looks inappropriate, and is not due to seasonality, holidays or other features of your niche.

Also, make sure that you have not lost any data on certain days or devices. Check if the Google Analytics codes are correctly implemented on all pages of your site and whether their correct formatting is preserved (GA tracking code can be found in the "Administrator"> "Tracking information"> "Tracking code" section).

Once you understand that this is definitely not a statistical error, you can have a closer look at the symptoms more closely and search for the root cause of the changes.

1. Significant changes on your site

Substantial site changes, such as redesign, migrating to another domain, or deleting content, may contain pitfalls for your SEO. If you have recently conducted something like this and suddenly the traffic have dropped, then pay attention to the aspects that were affected. The most frequently overlooked issues are about indexing and the possibility of crawling a site.

First go to the Crawl > Crawl Errors section of Google Search Console (GSC) and review the graphs for sudden changes after the update. If you see that the number of errors has increased, then you should check the correctness of internal links: perhaps, some of them "broke down" during the process of migration or redesign.

Then go to Google Index > Index Status in GSC and check if the total number of indexed pages of your site has changed. If it has decreased noticeably, make sure that you did not block anything from indexing accidentally: check out robots.txt directives and page-level restrictions (X-Robots or noindex tags).

2. Manual search engine penalty

If you have incurred the wrath of Google by violating the quality rules for webmasters and were caught by Google’s assessors, you will see a notice in your GSC account in the Search Traffic > Manual Actions section. Hacking a site is one of the possible reasons for this, which lies beyond your control; for this case, Google has a comprehensive guide for recovery. Most other reasons are completely under your control, so it will be easier to eliminate them.

Spam created by users

You can be penalized for spam and irrelevant links on those pages of your site where users can leave their content (for example, comments). You can get rid of spam by detecting it and thoroughly cleaning it. For further prevention, use moderation, as well as anti-spam protection instruments: for example, the reCAPTCHA plug-in or setting the "nofollow" parameter by default for user-generated links.

Unnatural outgoing links, cloaking and hidden redirects

If penalty was received for unnatural links, then study outbound links from your site. It may be necessary to get rid of links that clearly lead to non-topic resources or are obtained through an obvious link exchange.

If you were penalized for hidden redirects, then make sure that none of the redirects (301/302 answer codes) lead from your site to anything unexpected or suspicious.

As for cloaking, make sure that your pages return the same content to the user in the browser and to the crawler using the Fetch as Google Tool.

Thin or duplicate content

Too many pages containing too few can trigger a thin content penalty. These can be category pages with a lot of links and a few lines of text, thin landings instead of one content-rich homepage or other necessary service elements of the site that do not bring much value ​​in terms of content. They are better off merged or hidden, as all available content is included in the overall assessment of the site’s quality.

The main sign that will help you find thin content on your site is a small number of words on the page. You can also pay attention to the ratio between the number of words and the number of outbound links. Search for duplicate Title and Description meta tags will help finding pages that can be duplicated or very similar.

Unnatural links to your site

Explore the link profile of your site: sites of poor quality, spammed by external links, can cause suspicions. You can show Google that these links do not need to be taken into account, using Disavow tool: prepare a file with a list of domains that you want to reject, and send it through the appropriate form.

Once you figure out all the reasons for the penalty, send a reconsideration request to Google: click Request A Review in the Manual Actions section of your GSC.

3. Updates to the Google Algorithm

Google search is constantly evolving: more or less significant changes appear regularly. If the decrease in traffic coincides with any update, then look for the factors that could cause it. New core updates, as well as changes to already known algorithms, will usually appear in all SEO news, so it will not be difficult to find out what they are.

However, narrow and niche-specific updates cannot be covered immediately, so it is worthwhile to look for the SERP fluctuations for the main keywords of your niche to reveal any unusual shifts.

4. Loss of valuable backlinks

The loss of backlinks can seriously hurt your search visibility or traffic, especially if the site does not have a large amount of backlinks in general. If the traffic drop affects most of your pages and keywords, then check for any noticeable changes to the link profile. In case of the loss of valuable links from strong sites, if possible, consider the possibility of contacting resource owners personally in order to return important backlinks.

5. Competitors and search results changes

If there was a moderate drop in traffic or it affected only certain keywords, then some of your pages may have gone a few positions down the SERP. This could happen because of the rise of competitors' positions, and because of the appearance of new Featured Snippets, Knowledge Graph or Answer Box at the top of SERP.

If the ranking and traffic are lost to a competitor, then try to study those pages that have succeeded, and find that aspect that you can use for yourself. Are competitor’s pages optimized for mobile devices, unlike yours? Was the content significantly updated? Did the competitor get new backlinks? Or, perhaps, structured data helped him raise the results in the SERP or get on the "position 0"?

Finally, it may also happen that your competitors have launched a PPC campaign for the keywords you rely on, and now their ads take traffic from organic results, including yours. If this is the case, you can consider the possibility of launching contextual advertising too and overbidding the competitor (if these keywords are important for you), or to focus on other target queries.

Original article (prepared by SEO PowerSuite)

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